I have spent a lot of time with the binoculars at the kitchen window and apart from the unfortunate incident with the neighbour who I think misinterpreted my bird-spotting hobby for peeping tom activities it has been a very satisfying weekend.
The most noticeable thing about the garden is the number of juvenile birds that have now fully left the nest and are beginning to get independent and established. Just taking into account the sixteen bird species that visit my garden the RSPB estimates that across the United Kingdom there are about thirty-three million nesting pairs. I have been doing some calculations and based on the number of broods and the average number of eggs that means potentially two hundred and ninety-five million extra mouths to feed each summer. Now, I know that they are not all going to survive of course (I do watch Bill Oddie on the TV) but even allowing for a proportion of nest deaths this is still an awful lot of birds. Across the entire World scientists estimate that there are three hundred billion and that is roughly fifty birds to every human being or a hundred million for every Giant Panda!
So the garden is like a big bird crèche at the moment and I’ve seen most of the familiar adult birds bringing the kids around to show them the ropes. The Starlings are the most numerous and with their light brown feathers they look big and ungainly sitting next to their parents with their sleek green and purple plumage. They look to me to be the sort of kids that won’t leave home and they follow the parents around squawking and begging for food even though they are surely big enough to fend for themselves by now.
One thing that I am really pleased about is the increasing number of Goldfinch visiting the thistle feeder and they are bringing the little ones along as well. Unlike the Starlings these little ones are very attractive. They already have the distinctive black and yellow wing feathers but they haven’t developed the red faces yet, which won’t be there until the autumn. I like to watch the Goldfinch fly because they have a sort of flicking action that is quick and distracting and creates a blur of colour as they go. The young birds seem proud of their new coloured wings and sit on the top of the fence and practice the flicking motion in between feeding sessions.
There are other young finches as well. The Greenfinch visitor numbers have been increasing over the last two months or so and now there are some fledglings as well. One in particular amuses me, he already has his distinctive green colour but his head feathers are still immature and he sits on the fence proudly showing off a Stan Laurel haircut. Even though the Chaffinch is the second most common bird in the United Kingdom I don’t see many in the garden but over the weekend a pair of adults have been visiting regularly and they have two youngsters with them. The wing feathers have some colour but overall they are still quite dull and are a long way off full magnificent adult plumage. The Chaffinch parents seem very protective and they sit and watch while the young ones drop to the floor and look for fallouts from the bird feeders above.
I found it surprising to learn that the Chaffinch is so common at an estimated six million breeding pairs and also that the most numerous is the Wren at about seven million so it is disappointing then that I haven’t seen one since April. The third most common is the Blackbird at nearly five million and there have been a number of young birds in the garden already this year. Earlier there was a nest in the wild section in the bottom of the garden and I watched three chicks hatch, develop and then just fly away. Young blackbirds are attractive as well and have a lot of speckled markings that last year I managed to confuse for a Thrush. They are getting quite confident now and will even feed quite close to the back door when I put out raisons for the sociable adults.
Yesterday there was a tiny baby Robin that visited the bird table. He was about half the size of an adult and his red breast was bright was very immature and only extended a short way below his throat and certainly not across all of his breast just yet. I watched out for him today but didn’t see him again.
In the late afternoon yesterday a tiny Sparrow landed in the Yew tree by the kitchen window and clung on for dear life. I am sure he had left the nest too early because he was so small and he seemed reluctant to make another attempt at flying. He kept calling out and eventually his parents came by to attend to him and bring food and watch over him. Eventually he dropped to the floor and skipped across the lawn and into the flowerbeds under the watchful eye of his parents. I hope he was ok, I’m sure he will be.
Sadly this morning I found the remains of another grisly murder, another Sparrow in exactly the same spot on the lawn as last time, ripped to pieces in a violent attack and now I am sure it is the Sparrowhawk. I am confident however that it wasn’t the tiny baby Sparrow because the feathers were those of an older bird.
I like to see the young birds, it seems to justify my investment in all that bird food and this has been a good weekend.
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